…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Friday, June 30, 2006

scout says “nope” to dope

I have a confession to make. I find this very, very sexy:

I’ll surrender my lesbian card to the proper authorities if such lust sullies my integrity, but I can’t help myself.

The Tour de France begins tomorrow. Yay! And also, boo!

A doping scandal implicating a Spanish doctor and several superstar cyclists has cast a pall over pro cycling on the eve of its signature event. Incredibly, not one of the three riders who stood atop the podium at the conclusion of the 2005 Tour will race this year. Lance retired, and the second- and third-place finishers, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, respectively, were implicated in the doping dragnet. Just last month the thoroughly adorable and charming Basso won the Giro d’Italia, arguably the second-most important grand tour on the circuit. He dedicated his win, now tainted, to his recently deceased mother.

I understand the desire to take performance-enhancing drugs. Pro cycling is a brutal sport that requires long hours in the saddle and, as a result, a massively high pain threshold. The average person may be able to fold himself into the classic racing crouch, but holding it for five hours while pedaling at an average speed of 30 mph? That takes a special kind of determination and training. Your classic performance enhancers don’t so much give you a leg up on race day as they allow you to train longer and harder with less pain—they make you superhuman.

There are days on my bike when I feel bionic, and it’s an amazing feeling, like I could ride straight up a mountain and dance around on top. But most days I feel very, very human, with all the pain that entails. And it’s that essential humanness that makes us look upon professional athletes with awe, even idolatry. They seem heroic because they show us what the human body is capable of when pushed to its very limit, which is why it can be utterly heartbreaking to discover they weren’t so very human after all.

Cyclists who don’t use performance enhancers are harmed threefold: They’ve been denied an even playing field in past races by any number of dopers; every cyclist implicated for drug use casts doubt on the integrity of every other cyclist; and to further the insult, the eventual 2006 winner, a man who will have spent about 85 hours in the saddle to ride 2,261 miles over the course of 20 race days, will have a win with a mental asterisk denoting that he didn’t face the “real” competition—never mind that those guys cheated their way to past wins. And in a devastating turn, at least one leading contender who is innocent of drug use won’t be riding in the Tour because of the scandal: Alexandre Vinokourov won’t be allowed to compete because so many other riders on his team have been disqualified they don’t have enough men to field a regulation squad.

I’ll still be watching the TdF, mind you, and there are still plenty of well-toned calves that haven’t been disqualified to keep me happy, but the Tour is tainted for fans as well as riders. We’re so utterly human, and we thrive on success stories because they illustrate the art of the possible. But for heroes we’d best look to ourselves. Even if our “possible” doesn’t take us high into the Alps or sprinting through throngs of adoring fans, at least we know our victories are real.

*The calves featured in this entry belong to Levi Leipheimer and are in no way implicated in the doping scandal.


Blogger WenWhit said...

Well said, my friend. While I'm not a TdF follower, your point about the taint doping has cast applies to a wide range of sports. It does leave a disillusioned taste in my mouth. I'll try to keep your suggestion of appreciating one's own victories in mind. Thank you.

4:54 PM  
Blogger sporksforall said...

I can't disagree about the sexy bit, though you have some nice calves yourself scoutster.

I also think this is a terrific summation of the problem of drugs in sports. I keep my ears closed to anything Barry Bonds does.

Scout and I watched the calves at this years Tour de Georgia. We sat right by the start ramp so we could see them as the started. Very pretty.

12 miles for me Sunday. Some personal triumphs are small.

11:07 PM  
Blogger psychoselph said...

Hi. Recently "found" you, and have enjoyed the reading immensely.

Is it wrong if I'm jealous that you have discovered a physiological reason for the crap you've been through in the past year?

8:05 PM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

No harm in appreciating the beauty of a man's calves. Or thighs. Or ass. Or chest. Or arms. But if you start getting all hot about some guy's "package," well, then you may wish to consider turning in your card.

Performance enhancing drugs are not limited to the sports arena. I was shocked when my son talked about a classmate turning to steroid-type substances in order to build his body. They are studying theatre for chrissakes. What is up with that?

4:39 PM  
Blogger WenWhit said...

Um, 12 miles might be a "small" personal triumph for you biker-types... but it would be a farking miracle for me!

7:23 AM  
Blogger bryduck said...

I hope we can all rest assured that none of the athletes using enhancers would have reached their peaks without them. Even if it's as simple as McGwire "miraculously" not hurting his back every 2 weeks, or as complicated as Barry suddenly developing massive upper body strength (and endurance as well) to go along with his already fast bat--let alone defying age effects on both, or as sickening as TdF riders disappointing millions of fans, it's clear to me that without them, none of these athletes would have performed as well for as long. Perhaps Ullrich would have finished near the top anyway, but as many times? (If indeed he has been juicing in previous years . . .) I'm of 2 minds about how juicing affects my fandomhood, but as far as how it affects the clean competitors? That's not in question; clean athletes should take, oh, I don't know, 1/2 of all dirty athletes' winnings/salaries for themselves? That might even stop some from using in the first place . . .

3:48 PM  

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